Currently I’m…

It’s been a while. Before diving in to a topic, I wanted to catch you up on what I’ve been up to. I’m planning to get back into my weekly routine again. As you will see below this Summer has been intense!

Reading… I’ve been reading social media primarily and spiritual books. I created a list on Twitter called Sources of Light. Here are the Twitter Handles currently included on that list in no particular order:

  • @TheSerpentCast
  • @MillennialTarot
  • @OshunsM
  • @Neptunebbys
  • @AmeliaQuint
  • @thejessicadore
  • @blackgirlinom
  • @LalahDelia
  • @drcrystaljones
  • @blksoltheory
  • @TatiannaTarot
  • @jessicalanyadoo
  • @moonandquartz
  • @thehoodwitch
  • @TheMidheaven
  • @oldewaysbrujo
  • @ashleighdjay
  • @graphicMedium
  • @starsmoonandsun
  • @angelicabastien
  • @JSoAbove
  • @TheMeccanism
  • @heymysticmamma
  • @chaninicholas
  • @GabyHerstik
  • @YungKundalini
  • @amberjfinney

The nice thing about the Twitter List Feature is that you can name your list whatever you want and then you can add whichever handles you want to it. When you click on the list, you will only see the timelines of those who have been added.

Playing… More than last Summer, I have been really being intentional about getting out in Chicago. I attended Pitchfork Festival to see Chaka Khan, Dram and Lauryn Hill, and I also have gone to a few social events including Sophistiratchet Radio’s Brunch-n-Trap Event (thanks to my Bestie Jamila for the invite).

Watching… My favorite TV Shows currently on the air are Queen Sugar, Love Is, Insecure & Power. The season finales of Queen Sugar and Love Is aired this week, so they won’t be back until 2019, but one of my other favorite shows Greenleaf comes back next week. Most of my favorite shows are on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It is so encouraging to see a black woman be able to green light and provide a platform for such rich, beautiful content about black people. I pray that as I pursue and achieve my personal goals that I can continue to make room and create opportunities for others.

Trying… Honestly I’ve been removing the word “try” from my vocabulary. I believe that “try” is like a chicken exit to not do something. Either it is… or it isn’t. If I am still in “try” mode there is usually something else there to unpack… fear, reluctance, etc.

Cooking… My hubby was away more often than he was home for most of 2018. He has been home for about a month and I have been practically living in my kitchen. This week alone I made 3 new recipes – Spinach Enchiladas, Chicken Gumbo (I bought boneless or filet chicken thighs and non-pork Chicken Andouille Sausage). and Tonight I’m making Teriyaki Wings. I won’t link to the recipe until I taste it to make sure it is actually good! The first two recipes will definitely be in regular rotation.

Eating… I’ve been eating well. Drinking more water and cutting out sugar. I’ve set some health goals for my birthday in January and eating well is a big part of my ability to achieve those goals.

Drinking… Since I’ve been hanging out more socially, I’ve discovered that my favorite alcoholic drink besides Moscato Di’Asti, and Prosecco is a Mai Tai.

Calling… my bestie more often. We have the best conversations…

Texting… using lots of Emojis and GIFs.

Pinning… I’ve been thinking a lot about my Fall Wardrobe. The weather today felt very Fall-like. Fall is also my favorite season. You can check out my latest Pins here.

Tweeting… I’ve been super active on all of my social media platforms. My favorite thing to do is watch TV and Tweet at the same time. You find the hashtag for the show to see what everyone else is saying and you can contribute to the conversation. Most of the time I’m laughing and having super insightful and reflective conversations with people who are taking in the same content. It’s pretty amazing.

Crafting… I’m working on a major craft project that involves crystals and gemstones. I’m hoping to have some things to unveil no later than the beginning of October.

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Caption: Beads for an upcoming project. 

Scrapping… My honey and I took the most epic road trip. We drove from LA to Tucson, AZ, to Marfa, TX, to Dallas, TX to my family reunion in Atkins, Arkansas, and back home to Chicago. We drove 7 – 8 hours during the day and then would hang out in a different town each night. We had a chance to see places in America that we’d never see, catch up and spend some good quality time together. I’m excited to scrapbook that trip. My husband jumped out of a plane for the 60th Annual Air and Water Show with the Golden Knights. I have of ton of pics. I have to order prints from my favorite Printer – Persnickety Prints and then I can get busy.

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Doing… Exercise. I’ve been back in the saddle for two weeks now and it feels great. Someone asked me if I’d gone Vegan recently because my skin looks so good. I said no, but have significantly increased my water intake and I’ve added exercise back into my life.

Going… Connected to my craft project I’ve found a wholesale Bead Store in Downers Grove that I’d like to go to. First I need to make a list of the beads I’d like to purchase.

Loving… Life. This has been a great summer.

Discovering… myself. I finished up a journal that started in April of 2017 recently. I started writing in new journal today and look forward to continuing to work on and with myself.

Enjoying… So every night before I go to bed, I usually watch my two favorite Instagram Comedians – @iamzoie and @yep_im_kajun. I really enjoy falling asleep laughing every night and the first thing I remember when I wake up is going to bed laughing!

Thinking… As the organization I’ve founded Art of Culture Inc. has been undergoing a rebrand from Donda’s House Inc. it has given me the opportunity to really comb through our business model, our infrastructure and our future. I can’t wait to share publicly some of the things I’ve been thinking about! Stay tuned…

Feeling… productive! The sun is in Virgo, and since my Moon is in Virgo, this feels like a really good time for me. Eclipse season really tore me up! I’ve been feeling grounded and rooted and I am certain that is because of the energy of the earth sign!

Hoping for… I’m doing some consulting work and I just put in a bid for a major client. I am hopeful that the contract will come through as I am super excited about what I can bring to the table for them!

Listening to… my Spotify workout playlist almost daily and “Whipped Cream” by Ari Lennox. I’ve also had “Mood” by dvsn on repeat and “Ooh Nah Nah” by SiR featuring Masego.

Celebrating… my company’s 5th year Anniversary was 8/1! We’re planning a super cool Pop Up Event on 9/30! We’re also planning for our first gala in February.

Smelling… I burn a Frankincense and Myrrh Incense Stick every morning when I first wake up and I believe that is my favorite scent right now. I’m also loving the Black Cherry Merlot candle from Bath & Body Works.

Thanking… God, my ancestors and my loved ones for holding me down and making me feel so loved.

Considering… Halloween Costumes. Think I’m going to take a trip to NOLA with the hubby for Halloween. I haven’t been since Mardi Gras and I usually go every 3 – 4 months! It’s been 5 months and way too long.

Finishing… our rebranding work. My amazing team and volunteers have been meeting with me weekly for 90 minutes – 2 hours to discuss updating our documents, policies, mission & vision, etc. We present our work to our larger community on Saturday and have an internal deadline of September 1st for everything to be done.

Starting… two new Media Projects. Hubby and I are starting a podcast together soon and we’re working on a book. More details coming soon about both!

Spring Decor

I put away all of my Valentine’s Day Decor today and put all of my Spring Decorations out. I will likely leave my Spring Decor out until late May or early June. It’s still too cold to plant real flowers so from about October – May, I decorate with artificial flowers.

Here is what I did:

Everything I purchased came from either Michaels or Homegoods. The glass jars holding the eggs were purchased at either Amazon or Michaels! I try to plant my flowers the weekend after Mother’s Day & those flowers will stay outside/bloom through the Fall until we get our first deep freeze.

How To Make A Tea/Hot Drink Bar

My husband recently got back from a World Tour with DJ Jazzy Jeff. One of the things that he brought back home was lots of organic tea from his journey throughout Asia.

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I purchased mini glass Ball Jars from Amazon. In terms of size, they are about the size of Gerber Baby Food Containers. I didn’t want to run the risk of purchasing jars that were too big, and then the tea jars would look empty. I’d rather go small and then just refill as needed. Not to mention the teas are pretty potent and usually only need one teaspoon per cup.

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“I sing a song from Sing-Sing, sipping on ginseng…” – U-God of WuTang Clan in “Triumph” 

I swear I rap that line to myself everything I have a cup of Ginseng tea lol!

Finally, I added my other favorite hot drinks including Green Mint Tea, Chai Tea and White Hot Chocolate. The countertop shelf that I purchased I was also from Amazon, available here. The shelf came preassembled.

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I used regular mailing labels, and wrote the jar contents using a skinny Sharpie marker. Both the labels and the Sharpie were items I already owned. This project cost a total of $31.00, and it took about 30 minutes to fill the jars.

Happy organizing!!!

How Not To Freak The F*** Out In Times Of Crisis

A little over a week ago, my car was stolen while I was moving groceries in. To add insult to injury, it happened the night before my entire family was coming to Chicago to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. I was supposed to meet my mom at the airport at 8:00 a.m., and the remainder of the family members at the train station later in the day.

I immediately felt my heart rate increase, and then I felt incredible overwhelming sadness… but then I went into DC (Damage Control) Mode.

Step 1: Call The Police – When theft, or other criminal activities take place, if you can’t handle it on your own, you may need to call the police. Not to mention that a police report is often required for insurance purposes.

Step 2: Call The Insurance Company – The first thing the Insurance Company wanted to know was were the police called. I gave them a report number. Then I asked “What is the process.” I was informed that in 48 hours, I’d be eligible for a rental car, and in 14 days if the car wasn’t recovered, it would be considered a loss. In times of crisis, the best thing that you can have is information. That way your brain (and your heart) don’t have the opportunity to dream up ridiculous scenarios. Keep the foolishness in check by getting informed on your options.

Step 3: Create an immediate/temporary plan. – I have Uber & Lyft on my phone. I’ll take that to meet my mom at the airport, and then we’ll uber back. I spoke to my sister-in-law who lives across the street from me, and made arrangements to use her car later that day to pick up the rest of my family members from the Amtrak Station. She was also going out of town for the weekend, and said that I could use her car while she was away. Temporary crises of stranded family members – averted.

Step 4: Work The Plan. Once you know the steps to rectify the situation, you just work the plan. Be sure to record the names of the people who give you the information just in case there is a discrepancy later. Follow up & follow through with any additional paperwork and follow the process.

BUT WAIT… A FEW THINGS HAVE TO BE IN PLACE BEFORE THE CRISIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS!

PRE-CRISIS STEP 1: Get your paperwork in order. When it comes to property, purchase the extended warranty, the insurance, etc. All of these items seem expensive and unnecessary and the truth is that you likely won’t use it most of the time… but the one time you do need it, the peace of mind & the fees to repair or replace your product or device make it worth it in the end. I think of these things as pay now, or pay more later. In our household, anything that is over a certain amount (around $300+) gets insurance. This includes electronics, vehicles, appliances, etc. Remember to keep copies of all of the warranties and policies. I actually digitize all of my files using this and I keep all of my files organized in my Dropbox account. That way my files are easily accessible & searchable.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 2: Have a vent-partner. One of the best parts about being married is that you have a built-in vent partner. If you are not married (and even if you are married) be sure that you have someone that you can call to complain, cry, reason, laugh, etc. with. Often in times of crisis, my hubby and I bounce the responsibility back and forth so that neither of us gets burned out or overly frustrated. When it came to the first few steps of addressing the stolen vehicle, I handled the initial stages of contacting the police and the insurance company etc. Once our vehicle was recovered (thank God!) he took care of getting the estimates and dealing with the dealership to have the car serviced. My sister-in-law was instrumental in serving as my co-PI as my keys have a tracking device (TILE) which alerted me that my keys were in the area, leading to us searching the area and ultimately finding my stolen vehicle parked on the street.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 3: Copy the front and backs of all of the contents in your wallet. In the event that your purse or your wallet is stolen, you can quickly contact all of your banks and loyalty cards to get replacements. Most cards also have the phone number on the back that you should call, in case of emergency.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 4: Back up all of the contents of your computer into the cloud AND onto a hard-drive. I’ve endured at least two hard-drive crashes in my life. I’ve known friends that have been robbed at gunpoint of their briefcases and laptop bags. I have a little piece of mind knowing that all of my music, photos, important files and documents etc. are backed up using Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud Drive.  I’m a fan of all three systems because they are super easy to use, accessible anywhere you have the internet (let’s say you forget your laptop at home) and in many cases, other people can be given easy access to the files.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 5: Travel with a copy of your passport AND travel with at least two credit/debit cards. Anything can happen with your passport. I always keep a copy or two of my passport in different areas of my luggage. My husband recently finished a world tour with DJ Jazzy Jeff. While in Japan, an ATM machine ate his debit card. It’s important to have at least two different credit/debit cards in the event that something happens to one. One of these days I’ll have to write a whole post about crisis and travel! It really does deserve its own blog post!

PRE-CRISIS STEP 6: Learn how to use Find My iPhone and Find My Device (For Android). This has saved me so many times. Especially in situations where there was a large group and my phone or iPad went missing.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 7: Make a habit of cataloguing and keeping lists of things. This is usually a standard for home owners insurance, but you may want to get in the habit of keeping receipts and logs of your valuables so that if you need to file a claim, or if you need to replace the items, you can do so quickly and effortlessly.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 8: Write down key emergency contacts and have them easily accessible. Set up your Emergency SOS in the settings of your phone, if you have iPhone. Keep emergency contact phone numbers in your wallet, just in case you are unconscious so that members of your family can be reached.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 9: Get your car Emergency Ready. Keep your own jumper cables, and spare tire (if it can fit) in your car. Consider a membership to AAA or another road-side assistance service. Check out this article for tips on how to prepare your vehicle for Emergencies.

PRE-CRISIS STEP 10: Get your home Emergency Ready. Be sure you have a smoke detector & Carbon Monoxide Detector in your home, as well as be sure to check the batteries regularly. Do an annual fire/emergency drill in your home. Be sure that your door is labeled correctly so that people know that you have pets. Most pet stores and vets carry stickers to alert emergency personnel.

Last but not least, stay prayed up! Having a calm and faithful spirit is the best thing that you can have to regulate stress and address problems that inevitably come up in life. It is also helpful to have mechanisms for addressing stress – a healthy fitness routine, an active social life, appropriate medication and therapy where appropriate, journal writing (one of my favorite methods for processing stress and thinking through problems). If you have any helpful resources or advice, please drop them in the comments below!

NOTE: Shoutout to my sister Linedda for always encouraging me to write a book. If it be God’s will, one of these days I’ll be a New York Times/best-selling author. Writing was my first love!

Everything in It’s Place… Organizing The Closet for a New Season

A couple of years ago we converted one of our bedrooms to our closet. This past weekend I started putting away the pastels, bright colors and sandals of Summer, in order to put out the earth tones, warm colors and boots of autumn.

I have a small dog whose favorite thing to do is to eat my shoes! So I needed to find a solution that would protect my shoes from her teeth, while also displaying my shoes in a way that makes getting dressed effortless. In all of my years of organizing, the most important thing to consider is that the system be easy to maintain, otherwise you are likely to revert to whatever is easier. For example, if you find yourself leaving clothes on the floor in your living room, why not put a beautiful lidded hamper that disguises the mess. Your brain will be happy because it will have a place to unload the clothes based on your natural behavior and your eyes will be happy because you won’t have to witness the mess. Similar, I like to keep blankets and pillows in my living room but instead of leaving them laying around, they live in a basket hamper where we can grab them when needed and put them away with ease.

Here is our shoe situation before I implemented our new storage solution:

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Whenever I need a storage solution, the first place that I go is to The Container Store.

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Here are the storage solutions I used:

Men’s Drop-Front Shoe Box. Available here.

Women’s Drop-Front Shoe Box. Available here.

Both the men’s and the women’s drop-font shoe boxes come in a bulk package for a discounted rate.

Finally, my husband loves a good hat, but he wasn’t storing his hats in a way that protected them and in a way that he could easily find whichever hat he was looking for.

Here is the before picture:

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Here is the photo with the storage solution implemented:

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I used the

Grey Drop-Front Sweater Boxes, available here.

About a year ago, I purchased this shelving unit from Amazon, and we use it to display our boots and oversized shoes that won’t fit in the boxes:

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Before the shelves were kind of all over the place, as my only motivation was keeping my “good shoes” high up enough so that my dog couldn’t get to them. She never goes after my boots. So now the tall boots are on the bottom, the booties are in the middle and and the top, and a few of my favorite handbags are in the top shelves.

The top of the shelf is still used for the same purpose. Displaying our jewelry and other accessories.

I store out of season clothing in bins in our storage room, as I like to swap my clothes out (once in the Spring, and then in the Fall).

 

 

Gift Idea: Photo Mug

There are so many things that you can do with your photos besides leaving them on Social Media. Many companies today allow you to make personalized bags, magnets, mugs, blankets and more with your photos.

I ordered our Holiday Cards through TinyPrints.com.

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While on the site, I also decided to order a few of their customized mugs. Here is the result:

 

The entire mug is wrapped with the images covering everything except for the handle area. The prints were pre-designed and you could customize the words or the monograms however you wanted. i also decided to go with black, but they had many color options and the mugs took less than a week to be delivered.

Coffee and tea time just got a little more interested in the Smith House!

Here is the link if you’re interested in purchasing your own!

 

 

 

Apple Cider Mimosas via The Chew

Earlier this week, I was watching “The Chew” and Clinton Kelly created an Apple Cider Mimosas. I’m not a big alcohol person, but I LOVE champagne! So I took note and decided to try it out today.

The original recipe called for half a glass of chilled Apple Cider, half a glass of chilled Champagne and a sugared cranberry. I used Honey Crisp Apple Cider, Korbel Extra Dry White Champagne and fresh cranberry. It is truly a hit! One bottle of champagne was enough for 3 1/2 glasses.

Here is what the finished product looked like:

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It was the perfect homemade cocktail for my mother-in-law’s visit this weekend and it truly does capture Fall! I’m going to try out the same recipe with different types of juice.

Think At Solutions… Not Problems!

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Image: Courtesy of Lifehack
I recently attended the State of Black Chicago organized by our City Clerk: Dorothy Brown. Black Chicago has several crises including a dwindling population and a community ravaged by youth violence. There were committees that were organized around several areas including: [list the nine areas].
Throughout the day, representatives from each of the respective areas were asked to identify the major problems or challenges within their areas, but they were also asked to identify solutions that the group came up with. How many times do we have problems in our communities, our families or our lives and we focus most of our energy on the problem… Those problems look and sound like:
1. I don’t have enough money to pay all of my bills.
2. I have a horrible relationship with a close family member.
3. I’m unhappy with myself or with my life.
4. I hate my church and feel like I’m out of touch with God.
5. I have too much on my plate.
This list goes on and on. What I encourage you to do is ACKNOWLEDGE the problem and then spend the rest of your mental, physical and emotional energy thinking at the solution. If you don’t have enough money to pay your bills you can do one of the following, get a second job, go back to school to get certification and money that will allow you to make more money in your current position or start a side hustle.
If you have a horrible relationship with a family member, you can either decide to no longer deal with that family member or you can write that person a letter to tell them exactly how you feel. If you have too much on your plate, you can start saying no and turning over some of your responsibilities to others who have more time available.
You can’t solve a problem with more of the problem, you can only solve a problem by considering a solution. Imagine how silly it would look if fire fighters tried to fight fire with more fire. So start now, what are the biggest problems in your life and what can you do to address those problems?